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FIRST PERSON: Understanding Suicide


One thing that really annoys me is when people call suicide a selfish act. “Think of the effect it will have on your family”, they say or “how can people do that when they have lovely kids?” etc.

This is a massive bugbear of mine. When you get so desperately low that you are considering suicide, you have thought long and hard about it. It’s not a flippant decision with the ultimate aim of hurting others. You justify your suicidal thoughts by virtue of the fact that at that particular point in time, you feel that your actions will actually be a benefit to your family. They’d be better off without you. You’re a burden to them. You’ve weighed up all your options. It’s not as if you are going to suddenly say “oh yeah, I forgot about my family” and put the idea behind you.

Whilst the selfish argument is a throw away comment by many, it lingers with me since I am a father of 2 children and have battled suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. At those times, in my eyes, my children deserve better; I decided I would make it look like an accident and have them think I was unfortunate or a bit careless, rather than them knowing I couldn’t cope with disappointing them on a daily basis, and this is how I would justify it in my mind.

Suicide is, in the majority of cases, a long thought out process where all options have been considered. In circumstances like my own, everything had been thought about deeply, down to the last minute detail, and only when all avenues appeared to have been exhausted does suicide become a viable reality.

At these times when I am at my lowest, I feel that I have put my family first, as I would rather cause them a one off pain like that, than break their hearts on a daily basis through my depression. You feel as if are doing it to help them, not hurt them. This may sound irrational to those who have never experienced suicidal thoughts, but when someone is considering taking their own lives, rationality doesn’t come into it.

I’m happy to say that, despite all this, I am still here. Why? I don’t know exactly, but I can guarantee it is not because someone advised me to ‘think of my family’. I was thinking of my family.

The reason I wanted to write this piece was to help people understand the thought process that goes on when someone is considering taking their own life. Understanding the circumstances surrounding suicide is half the battle of preventing it. The thought processes and state of mind of those who are feeling suicidal are extraordinarily hard for ‘non-suicidal’ people to understand, but what is assured is that selfishness and the desire to hurt others doesn’t come into play.

I cannot say that it is one single thing that has stopped me from taking my own life - it’s not a religious belief or an epiphany, or even a motivational quote, like “life is not the breath we take, but the times our breath is taken away”.

All I can say is that something stopped me. I sat down and discussed my thoughts and behaviour patterns with my family, and was met with understandably emotional responses such as “if you kill yourself, I will never speak to you again” and the equally as baffling “if you killed yourself, I will kill you more”. Suicide is a hard thing to understand and even harder to talk about, but neither of these things are going to improve unless both those considering suicide and the family and friends around them start talking.

I will admit that this article was written in two parts - the first when I was at my lowest and the second after intervention from my GP, family, crisis team and now counsellors. Whilst the line is a cliché, it is true that “It’s good to talk”. Don’t get me wrong, despite writing this for the world to see, a lot of my friends do not know what is going on. Deciding who I tell has been a particular, and sometimes surprising, selection process. Some people who I thought wouldn't understand turned out to be the most useful and experienced.

I have learnt to take one day at a time, take the highs while I can and learn to cope with the lows when they happen.

Life is one giant rollercoaster (and no I am not quoting Ronan Keating, thank you very much). All I am trying to say is never give up on yourself, as you may miss a high down the line that stays with you for a lifetime.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the CALM helpline and talk to our trained helpline workers. Open 5pm - midnight, every day of the year